Congratulations, you just made it through your favorite workout class and you’re starving. You might have tuned out your instructor when they suggested you eat something healthy that’s high in protein – (and lots of water to hydrate!) – but they’re totally right. What you consume after you burn calories, build strength or sweat excessively is important for meeting your fitness goals and keeping your body in healthy shape. The focus post-workout should be on healing the muscles that you just worked during training.
Just like your teacher suggested, the best option is to turn to something protein-rich and low in carbs. “The post-workout meal should be focused on recovery and helping to heal and repair the wear and tear that you just put on your body during the workout, this means focusing on protein, vegetables, healthy fat and nutrient rich carbs,” explains registered dietician Cynthia Sass. “[If you eat the wrong foods], you will not heal properly because you go into the next workout weaker instead of stronger.”
So what should you eat – and definitely not eat? Here, registered dietitians share what you should avoid, along with alternatives to nom on:
Pancakes or Cereal
The worst foods to eat after a workout are simple carbs without protein and fat. This will make your “blood sugar will go really high and then crash and make you feel worse and hungrier,” says Juliet Burgh. If you’re working out before class, this means you’d want to skip eating pancakes or cereal, and instead, go for complex carbs like oatmeal.
Pizza or Soda
Some things to avoid are foods that are low in protein and nutrients, contain bad fats and are processed like pepperoni pizza, chips and soda. If you are doing a quick HIIT workout, you may not need a full workout recovery meal. Another thing to stay away from is only drinking something like vegetable juice, as it has no protein or fat, which you need as building blocks. Some quick choices that satisfy this are jerky, nuts and chickpeas roasted in olive oil, suggests Sass.
When you’re walking to work from your class and you can smell the fresh-baked pastries from a local shop, try your best to keep on moving. “Any pastry, dessert or bagels will sabotage your workout,” says Brooke Alpert. Why? Bread is basically made of sugar, and while it might give you a rush, it’ll also give you a major crash. She also explains that heavy bread doesn’t provide any nutritional benefit to your diet, and if you want something more hearty, you’re better off reaching for a chicken and veggie combo, instead of a sandwich or danish.